Skip to content

NWSL Game of the Week: Western New York Flash vs. Boston Breakers

Apr 26, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

source:  What looked like a battle of two of the NWSL’s best strikers fell through on Thursday when Abby Wambach was ruled out of Western New York’s Saturday match against Sydney Leroux and the Boston Breakers. Without his offensive focal point, Flash coach Aaran Lines will need another plan of attack if his team’s to claim their first victory of the young season.

Kicking off at 7:35 p.m. in Rochester, Boston’s visit to Western New York is ProSoccerTalk’s NWSL Game of the Week.

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Boston putting last week behind them

When the Breakers arrived at Logan Airport last Friday, armed guards reminded them of the week that was – five days that started with a bombing at the Boston Marathon and ended with a manhunt in Watertown, where defender Kia McNeill was isolated while that section of the city was locked down.

“There were a lot of players that wanted to be with their friends and family,” Boston Breakers general manager Lee Billiard told Equalizer Soccer. “They didn’t want to leave them behind. They didn’t want to leave Kia McNeill behind either.”

The Breakers’ game in Kansas City was eventually rescheduled, the team leaving Boston’s airport to spend the weekend at home. As a result, the team hasn’t played a game in two weeks, undoubtedly the least of their worries, but one that could still have an impact on the field come Saturday night’s kickoff.

“For us, it’s a little bit of a set back,” head coach Lisa Cole told ProSoccerTalk. “Other teams have had the opportunity to have that one extra game that puts them a little bit ahead. But I also think because of the extra week we were able to address some tactical and technical things we needed to address.”

Having not played since their home opener, an April 14 draw with the Washington Spirit, Boston’s weekend off has also built anticipation.

“We’ve obviously dealt with some pretty crazy things this past week,” Sydney Leroux said of the team’s state of mind. “I think we’re ready to play soccer … the team’s in a good place now.”

Speaking to the BBC last Friday, Billiard highlighted the role sports, particularly in Boston, can play in helping a community move on. It’s a sentiment Cole echoed ahead of the Breakers’ return:

You don’t need to get over it or degrade what happened, but you do need to keep moving forward … for our fans, I think that’s important. Now’s the time to be energizing our fans and help put things behind them.

2. Teams making defense out of nothing at all

Among the things Boston and Western New York have in common – from their focal point strikers, to their participation in WPS, to their regional rivalry and their winless starts – the state of their defenses after this winter’s player allocation would have been a point of mutual empathy. Both teams were left them with questions in goal and defense – questions the league’s roster restrictions have made it difficult to answer.

“I would be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed,” Lines said, when asked about the challenges handed to him by getting only two U.S. internationals (Wambach and midfielder Carli Lloyd). “We weren’t given a defender … and then you couldn’t just go out and build the rest around that, either.”
As opposed to being able to build a squad through his own devices, Lines had to go through a supplemental draft, college draft, and limited free agency. Those steps that left him with a defense that has two combined international appearances.

But Western New York’s luck was different in the college draft, where the allocation of goalkeepers to most of the six teams picking front of Western New York meant Adrianna Franch, a national team prospect from Oklahoma State, fell to the Flash at seven. Over the first two weeks of her professional career, Franch has been among the NWSL’s best goalkeepers.

NWSL Standings

Pos. Team GP Pts. PST
Rank
1 Portland 2 4 1
2 Sky Blue FC 1 3 3
3 Washington 2 2 6
4 Boston 1 1 7
4 Kansas City 1 1 2
4 Chicago 1 1 8
7 Seattle 2 1 5
7 W. New York 2 1 4

“At goalkeeper I’ve gone in with a rookie,” Lines said, explaining why he was willing to take the chance with inexperience. “If I hadn’t had the success the club’s had over the previous years (winning three straight titles across three different leagues), maybe I wouldn’t have gone in and made that step, but I was convinced with [her] ability.”

Ask opponents and the traits that most frequently come up about “A.D.” are quickness and poise, the latter speaking to the attitude she’s brought to her first year in professional soccer.

“It (hasn’t) been too different for me,” Franch said of her transition from college life to the pros, “because from my point of view with going to school with scholarships, it is in a way a job. You have to work for your scholarship and make sure you’re on time for everything and focused. That’s helped me with this adjustment.”

Boston, allocated 18-year-old Cecilia Santiago, had their chance at Franch but passed. As a result, Lisa Cole had to find a starting goalkeeper on the open market.

“It’s been difficult,” Cole said of that search. “Adrianna Franch, she’s gone a great job in her first two games, but I think a rookie goalkeeper needs to have a good solid six months.”

Cole’s eventually settled on Ashley Phillips, a 27-year-old veteran of the WPS Breakers, whose integration has been overshadowed by other problems along Boston’s defense. While Cole can rely on veteran duo McNeill and Cat Whitehill in the middle along with Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson on our right, left back has turned into soccer’s version of Spinal Tap’s drummer.

“I was excited about at the beginning of the season with Casey Short coming in,” Cole said of the Florida State defender Boston took in the first round, “We knew we’d have the ability to play Heather (Mitts, now retired) or Rhian there until she develops. (Then) Casey Short went down (knee injury). Now Bianca (D’Agostino) going down (knee injury). Then Julie King, who we thought would play these this weekend, has been injured. Jo Dragotta, who played there for us in the first game, (is injured). So it seems like anybody I put in that position gets hurt.”

With the restrictions on how rosters were formed, almost every team had question marks. But Western New York and Boston began the season with major questions at the back, and although neither team has given up more than one goal in a match (through three games), each coach will need more than early returns to alleviate their concerns.

3. Good luck stopping Syndey Leroux

She has 16 goals in 34 international appearances, numbers that would be even more daunting if Leroux wasn’t battling for playing time with Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. Her five goals in Olympic qualifying last January are tied for a U.S. Soccer record, and at despite being only 22 years old, the former UCLA Bruin may be the most physically daunting attacker in the NWSL.

source: APYet ask Leroux to describe herself, and you’ll get a completely unconscious answer:

I’m fast, I guess. That’s what I’ve heard before … I don’t really know. It’s a tough question. I’d like to say that I think that I play hard. And smile, I guess.

Without the burden of modesty, opponents say the same thing, though their descriptions paint a more tormenting picture.

“Pace, that’s the first thing,” Franch said when asked to describe her U-level teammate. “Her movement on and off the ball is good … She never gives up. Doesn’t matter if the ball’s running out (at) the endline. She makes sure she gives all her effort at the end of that. Forcing keepers or defensive backs to play that long ball. She’s always putting that pressure on.”

We always think of elite strikers as having great technique or “predatory instincts,” both of which Leroux has. But her combination of world-class speed and almost unmatched tenacity is a defender’s worst nightmare, one that has left opponents struggling for ways to restrain her.

“You can’t necessarily stop her completely,” Cole said of her star attacker. “I think you need to limit her touches, probably limit the number of times she gets a ball behind a defense, because she’s so dangerous running at a goalkeeper … As she develops, she’ll be close to impossible (to stop).”

Against Washington in week one, Leroux’s tenacity paid off, her 91st minute goal salvaging an opening day draw. Particularly with Wambach sidelined, Leroux’s skillset makes her the player most likely to decide Saturday’s game.

QUICK HITS

W. New York Boston
Star to Watch Adrianna Franch – She has been her team’s best player through two games. Until Lines’ attack can start converting chances into goals, the first year star will have to continue to produce veteran performances. Sydney Leroux – Western New York’s defense has been very good through the season’s first two weeks, but Leroux’s much better than Lisa De Vanna, a quality attacker given multiple one-on-ones with Franch in league one.
Still Important Veronica Perez – The key to W. New York’s transition game, the Mexican international’s ability to turn on a ball and get her team into through the middle third demands attention from opposition coaches. Heather O’Reilly – The U.S. international is one of the best wide players in the world – a unique talent in a league that lacks players who can break down opposing fullbacks. Her threat along Boston’s right will stretch the defense for Leroux.
Win if … … Franch and the defense stay strong while their wide play with Perez and/or Samantha Kerr can compensate for the absences of Wambach. … W. New York’s attack can’t click or Leroux can’t be contained.

Other games, Week 3

FC Kansas City vs. Seattle Reign FC (Friday, 8:35 p.m. Eastern) – A battle of midfields could be settled by Kansas City’s attack as two teams search for their first victories of the season. An attacking core of Renae Cuellar, Casey Loyd, Lauren Cheney, and Kristie Mewis makes Kansas City more likely to break through the midfield slog.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns FC (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern) – For the third week in a row, Portland goes up against a team playing two holding midfielders. If they don’t have a way to offset that by now, Thorns FC’s midfield really does need to be reevaluated.

Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern) - The Spirit’s two draws have come largely on the saves of Ashlyn Harris, but if Tiffany McCarty and Stephanie Ochs can translate threats into chances, they’ll break through for their first win. Sky Blue, coming off a bye week, are one of two teams to win a game over the league’s first two weekends.

Latest Posts
  1. Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray: Welbeck’s hat-trick leads 10-man Arsenal

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    The Gunners provided one of their most stunning performances of the season on Wednesday, dismantling Group D opponents Galatasaray 4-1.

  2. FC Basel 1-0 Liverpool: Streller sinks Reds in Switzerland

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-LIVERPOOL AP

    Lackluster Liverpool now level on points with Basel, face Real Madrid in next two matches.

  3. Hat-Trick Hero: Danny Welbeck nails three in thumping of Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-GALATASARAY Getty Images

    “He scores when he wants. He scores when he wants. Danny Welbeck, he scores when he wants.”

  4. Arsenal cruise to 3-0 halftime lead over Galatasaray through Welbeck, Sanchez

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    A first-half brace from Danny Welbeck and a third from Alexis Sanchez handed Arsenal some breathing room against Galatasaray.

  5. UEFA Champions League, at the half: Arsenal flying, Real Madrid being held

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez, Felipe Melo AP

    Arsenal are flying, so too are Leverkusen. Check out all the half time scores, here.

  6. Follow Live: UEFA Champions League – Arsenal v. Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Arsenal's new Chilean forward could become a hero at the Emirates. AP

    The Gunners opened the Champions League group stage in disappointing form, losing 2-0 to BVB.

  7. Follow live: UEFA Champions League – Basel vs. Liverpool

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Can the Reds make it two wins from two in the Champions League?

  8. Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Monaco: Group C leaders cancel each other out

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-MONACO AP

    Zenit, Monaco remain top of Group C after a dour draw in Saint Petersburg.

  9. Report: Red Bull’s days in MLS are likely numbered

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Henry AP

    Thierry Henry may be on his way out of New York City as turmoil at the top could drive him out.

  10. Roma tags Manchester City back for Totti tweet

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Totti Getty Images

    The two sides had some internet fun after yesterday’s 1-1 Champions League draw.

  11. FIFA exec says they are looking into reducing Luis Suarez’s ban

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    The former president of CONMEBOL told Uruguayan TV that Suarez could return earlier than expected.

  12. Men in Blazers podcast: Wayne Rooney’s implosion, Derby Day and an MiBNT update

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    That Wayne Rooney implosion? You’re gonna need Rog and Davo to break it down.

  13. Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector headed for scans amid injury worries

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Spector Getty Images

    The US fringe player picked a terrible time to be injured, with the international break on the horizon.

  14. Gedion Zelalem scores first-ever goal for Arsenal, and it’s a beauty

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT

    Photo: Arsenal FC Photo: Arsenal FC

    With Zelalem weaving through defenders on the Arsenal U-19 team, it’s hard not to get antsy about the 17-year-old possibly playing for the United States.

  15. Bayern Munich pays back fans who rented skyscraper to watch match

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    Photo: @clubnr12 on Twitter Photo: @clubnr12 on Twitter

    With their Champions League match in Russia behind closed doors due to a UEFA sanction, fans found a way to watch anyways, and the team rewarded the dedicated supporters.

  16. So much for bad hamstrings, Costa states he’s ready for Spain selection

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

    Costa Getty Images

    Jose Mourinho has pestered the media with information about Costa’s troublesome hamstring all week, but the player himself isn’t listening.

  17. Amid Newcastle crisis, Cheick Tiote says he wants out

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Tiote Getty Images

    Alan Pardew must deal with yet another off the field issue at St. James Park as reports he’s losing the dressing room don’t look any less true at the moment.

  18. It’s me again! Vincent Tan calls out Malky Mackay

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Are you as tired of Vincent Tan as Cardiff City supporters are?

  19. Mats Hummels says his future is at Dortmund

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-BRAUNSCHWEIG Getty Images

    The German defender was courted by Manchester United and Real Madrid, but says he is at Dortmund for the long-run.

  20. UEFA Champions League preview: Liverpool face Basel, Arsenal defend the Emirates

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Wednesday features eight Champions League matches, including important matchups for Premier League sides Arsenal and Liverpool.

Featured video

Week 6: Premier League recap